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How Does the Health Information Trust Alliance (HITRUST) Relate to HIPAA

As healthcare providers rely more on developing technologies to store and transmit data, managing security requirements to protect all types of health and patient information becomes an arduous journey.

Due to the growing complexity and demand of numerous security requirements from federal and state agencies involving health information, staying secure and compliant is a challenging landscape to navigate.

This is where the Health Information Trust Alliance (HITRUST) comes in.

The primary purpose of HITRUST is to consolidate various aspects of regulatory compliance. It provides a unified framework for covered entities, business associates (BAs), and IT vendors to adopt and ensure they use the right and appropriate security controls to protect health data.

HITRUST is becoming more popular, corresponding with the growing trend of data security systems. HITRUST created the Common Security Framework (CSF). This certifiable framework builds on HIPAA regulations to help its covered entities and their IT providers demonstrate security and compliance in a consistent and consolidated manner.

Let’s take a closer look at the relationship between HIPAA and HITRUST to understand the significance of HITRUST in maintaining HIPAA compliance.

HITRUST was born to make information security a core pillar in HIPAA.

Unlike HIPAA, a federal law, HITRUST is an organization governed by representatives from the healthcare industry to standardize on a standard, certifiable framework that allows healthcare providers to meet security compliance.

Founded in 2007, healthcare and IT professionals built CSF on HIPAA regulations and the HITECH Act, both US healthcare laws establishing requirements for the use, disclosure, and protection of individually identifiable health information.

Due to the numerous rules and regulations in security systems within the law, many healthcare organizations, medical practices, and IT vendors have difficulty assessing and managing compliance. Covered entities think of health information security rules as a burden to deal with on top of their demanding work.

Healthcare representatives behind CSF believe that information security should be a core pillar of the broad adoption of health information systems and exchanges rather than an obstacle.

HITRUST offers a streamlined compliance framework, assessment, and certification process to help cloud service providers and covered entities measure their system conformity.

CSF provides healthcare organizations and providers a way to show evidence of compliance with HIPAA since HITRUST takes and builds on HIPAA requirements, incorporating them into a framework.

Many HIPAA requirements are open to interpretation, creating confusion in security implementation and compliance.

The crucial compliance requirements in handling protected health information (PHI) come straight from HIPAA. With the growing popularity of telemedicine and the expanding market for telemedicine solutions, experienced healthcare providers and IT vendors are now familiar with HIPAA’s baseline requirements to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of any health data.

However, many HIPAA requirements are too elastic and open for interpretation, not to mention it depends on the organization’s size, nature, and capabilities. These guidelines fail to provide specific and reliable compliance direction for providers. As a result, many providers are often unsure of what constitutes reasonable and appropriate system safeguards.

For example, a medical organization complies with HIPAA Security Rule and implements necessary protections to create and transmit health data into its system. However, they fail to implement sufficient controls resulting in a data breach.

Considering that the OCR has received over 283,429 HIPAA complaints since November 2021, the need for standardized and actionable guidance is evident.

Being HITRUST-certified does not mean you are HIPAA compliant.

Although HITRUST allows you to meet HIPAA requirements, receiving certification for complying with its framework does not guarantee HIPAA compliance.

On the other hand, there is no such thing as being HIPAA certified. The most reliable and effective way of demonstrating good-faith effort in upholding and respecting HIPAA regulations and guidelines is by achieving the Compliancy Group’s Seal of Compliance.

It is important to note that no matter how good the intentions of HITRUST and CSF are, OCR hasn’t formally acknowledged them. However, similar to achieving the Seal of Compliance, correct implementation of the HITRUST establishes that you are taking responsible steps to operate in line and comply with HIPAA.

You can trust HITRUST to demonstrate that you are taking reasonable steps to operate within HIPAA guidelines.

Many healthcare networks and providers trust HITRUST as a certifiable and recommended framework to effectively manage data, information risk, and compliance.

HITRUST includes but is not limited to HIPAA. The CSF also incorporates healthcare-specific security, privacy, and other regulatory requirements from other compliance frameworks, such as the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS), ISO/IEC 27001 information security management standards, Minimum Acceptable Risk Standards for Exchanges (MARS-E), etc.

HITRUST and CSF provide an option for the healthcare sector to address information security and risk management across the mentioned third-party assurance assessments to consolidate, reduce, and eliminate the need for multiple reports. HITRUST refers to this treatment as “assess once, report many” — generating various reports to address various regulatory or best practice frameworks.

Security and compliance are vital parts of the successful implementation of healthcare technology systems. Even though security requirements and managing compliance can be confusing at some point, you should not ignore or treat them as an afterthought.

Collective efforts such as HITRUST to help streamline requirements and meet information security regulations not just benefit the health system but enhance patient care as healthcare providers spend less time worrying about compliance and spend more time focusing on patients.